Fleming Island wrestlers stop for a team photo after taking the 2019 Clay Rotary team title Saturday in Green Cove Springs (Photo by Shannon Heaton).
By SHANNON HEATON
North Florida Matmen
GREEN COVE SPRINGS — Wrestling is firstly, and rightly, known as a sport of aggression, and the area’s top program, Fleming Island, certainly takes a back seat to no one on the mats when it comes to that.
But what separated the Golden Eagles, particularly during their final round of wrestling Saturday afternoon, was a group ability to maintain composure and patience under pressure. That allowed Fleming to steadily pull away from a 37-team field that included two fellow team dual state runnerups, as the Golden Eagles outpointed Charlotte, 312.5-278, for the team title.
“When you’re in shape, you can do that stuff,” Fleming Island coach PJ Cobbert said of his team, which bagged three individual titles to go along with the team win.
“We’re still trying to figure some things out. Do you run? Do you save your legs? Every weekend’s a different test. We wanted to change things up (Fleming was originally scheduled to go to Lake Gibson’s IBT this past weekend), but the road trips are killing us. We’ll refocus (Sunday). We can get better in some spots.”
Charlotte, last months 2A dual team state runnerup, had the second-longest road trip (no one touching T-9th Key West for that honor), traveling back to Punta Gorda with three individual titles of its own, plus an OW (upper weights) for Tarpons superstar sophomore Lucas Willis (#1 in 2A at 152).
“It (the postseason run Charlotte faces) is going to be rough. Going to be a dogfight between us and Riverdale and Palmetto Ridge,” Tarpons coach Evan Robinson said. “The kids actually paid attention to their coaches in the corner this weekend, which they haven’t done too well at lately. Kids are doing things we asked them to do. This is a big step for us going into the post-season.”
Wakulla, the 1A dual team state runnerup, was third with 190 points and three individual titles, that despite missing a few starters with the flu and taking just 11 wrestlers to Clay, fewest among any team in the top seven.
“It was a blast,” War Eagles coach William Pafford said of taking aim at two of the state’s premier programs. “Kids wrestled tough, got plagued by the flu. We normally bring 18 to a tournament like this, and we ended the day with just nine or 10. It speaks volumes as a team to still be third with all that, so that’s awesome. We’re 100% ready, can’t wait for regions and states.”
Buchholz (one individual champ) pushed past Hernando, 163.5-145.5, for fourth place, while Matanzas was sixth at 140. The host Blue Devils were seventh at 112.5, followed by Tampa Prep (eighth on six wrestlers, 92.5 points, one champ), Florida High and Key West (tied for ninth at 91) to round out the top 10.
Local teams in the 11-20 mix were Columbia (11th, 86.5), Bishop Kenny (12th, 67), Episcopal (13th, 66, one individual champ), Creekside & First Coast (tied for 14th, 60.5), Fletcher (16th, 53), Bartram Trail (17th, 52, one individual champ), Niceville (18th, 51), Suwannee (19th, 50) and St Augustine (20th, 48).
Other local teams in the tournament included Mandarin (22nd, 44), South Walton (23rd, 42, one individual champ), Oakleaf & Bolles (T-24th, 41.5), Robert E. Lee (26th, 40), Raines (27th, 38), Bishop Snyder (28th, 37.5), Middleburg & Palatka (T-29th, 32), Pedro Menendez (31st, 29), Ponte Vedra (33rd, 25.5), First Baptist Christian (34th, 20), Ed White (35th, 19) and Godby (36th, 16).
A recap of the tournament follows, with notes on 13 or 14 finals that included at least one local wrestler:
106 — Charlotte’s Andrew Austin (#3 in 2A) pinned his way into the finals (4 falls in all), where he scored twice and took a 5-1 decision in the finals over Tampa Prep’s Ethan Mojena (#3 in 1A, 4 pins prior to final). Fleming Island’s Hunter Herrington (#10 in 3A), who lost by fall (2:37) to Austin in the semis, came back to take third with a pin in the consi semis and 8-1 decision over Buchholz’s Aiden Moore (#16 in 3A). Clay’s Tazz Hampton (#10 in 1A) pinned Episcopal’s Joe Jackson (#19 in 1A) in 1:30 for fifth. Raines’ DaQuan King (13-8 loss to Jackson) and Bolles’ Jacob Witt (#18 in 1A, loss by fall in 3:51 to Moore) reached the blood round.
113 — In the finals, Episcopal’s Kyle Hopkins (#2 in 1A) scored in each period, with a quick turn in the first, to major Matanzas’ Shaun Culbreth (#4 in 2A), 10-1. Hopkins, the tournament’s lower-weight OW, had two pins, a major and decision prior to the finals, while Culbreth had three pins and a decision. Fleming Island’s Riley Holton (#5 in 3A), who lost to Culbreth in the semis, came back to place third behind a decision and 12-0 major in the third-place match over Hernando’s Jonathan Britton (#9 in 1A). Charlotte’s Patrick Nolan (#13 in 2A) pinned Florida High’s Emil Ganim (#13 in 1A) in 1:30 for fifth. Wakulla’s Jackson Merrick (#11 in 1A, loss by fall in 2:51 to Ganim) and Clay’s Justin Byler (loss by fall in 1:32 to Nolan) reached the blood round.
120 — Perhaps the marquee match of the evening in that it involved two 2018 state champions, Fleming’s Briar Jackson (#3 in 3A) broke open a back-and-forth affair midway through the third period by hitting a gut wrench for three back points, using those to secure a 9-7 victory over Charlotte’s Donovan Cataldi (#2 in 2A). Jackson had two pins and two majors prior to the final, while Cataldi had three pins and a major. Tampa Prep’s Collin Mojena (#1 in 1A), who lost by fall to Cataldi in the semis, came back for third with a major and 5-3 win in the third-place match over Buchholz’s Bryan Perkins (#15 in 3A), while Florida High’s Brooks Dyer (#3 in 1A at 113) winning by forfeit over Pedro Menendez’s Robert Iglesias (#16 in 1A) for fifth. First Coast’s Jason Schwartz (#18 in 3A, 8-3 loss to Dyer) reached the blood round.
126 — In what could be a preview of the 1A-District 2 final — if not the 1A-Region 1 final, assuming both stay at this weight — Wakulla’s Matthew Owen (#3 in 1A) capitalized on an over-extended move and scored a takedown with 32.4 seconds left in extra time, fending off two takedowns in regulation from Florida High’s Tyler Reeve (#5 in 1A at 120) for a 6-4 decision. Owen had three pins and a decision prior to finals, while Reeve had two pins and two decisions. Charlotte’s Malachi Schaeffer (#15 in 2A), who lost, 6-5, to Reeve in the quarters, won four times on the back for third, shutting off Fleming’s Ryan Hobson, 1-0. Columbia’s Ian McGuigan (#8 in 2A) overcame Clay’s Luke Davis, 7-5, for fifth, while Palatka’s Drevon Wallace (loss by fall to Schaeffer in 2:00) reached the blood round.
132 — Perhaps the most back-and-forth match of the championship round, Bartram Trail’s Nicholas Vugman (#4 in 2A) scored on four separate occasions, with a reverse and takedown in the third period proving sufficient to hold off Charlotte’s Ted Gjerde (#9 in 2A), 8-7. Vugman had three pins and a major prior to the finals, while Gjerde pinned his way there (4 falls in all). Clay’s Cale Hoskinson (#9 in 1A), who lost, 16-2, to Vugman in the semis, came back for third without allowing a point on the backside, with a 1-0 decision in the third-place match over Matanzas’ Lawrence Russo (#8 in 2A). Fleming’s Dalton Baysinger pinned Columbia’s Alex McGuigan (#17 in 2A) for fifth in 2:30, while Wakulla’s Isaiah Wilson (15-1 loss to Baysinger) and Palatka’s Brandon Lewis (10-0 loss to McGuigan) reached the blood round.
138 — South Walton’s Ethan Pickren (#3 in 1A) set the early tone with a takedown and later 3-point nearfall in the first period, then capitalized on a late throw attempt for a takedown in the final seconds to secure a 10-4 win over Hernando’s Josh Pritz (#4 in 1A). Pickren had bonus-pointed his way to the finals (3 pins and major), while Pritz had two pins, a major and decision. Fleming’s Dalton Williams (#7 in 3A), who lost 5-1 to Pritz in the semis, came back for third with a decision in the consi-semis and 12-0 major for third over Matanzas’ Josh Bower. Key West’s Devin Battle pinned Columbia’s Matt Arango (#6 in 2A) in 1:30 for fifth, while the Tigers’ Daveyon Brown (#12 in 2A, loss by fall in 2:07 to Arango) and Buchholz’s Hunter Griffin (loss by fall in 4:29 to Battle) reached the blood round.
145 — Wakulla’s Noah Wilson (#7 in 1A) scored five points for the early lead, then secured a reversal midway through the second period and made those stand up in a 7-0 decision against the tough ride of Fleming Island’s Gannon Janssen (#4 in 3A). Wilson had two falls and two decisions en route to the final, while Janssen had a pin, tech and two decisions. Charlotte’s Cody Rice (#4 in 2A), who lost, 4-2, to Wilson in the semis, came back for third with a pin and 3-1 decision over Hernando’s Boston Tafelski (#2 in 1A) in the placing match. Bishop Moore’s Devin Hernandez (#13 in 1A) pinned Columbia’s Matt Ross (#7 in 2A) for fifth, with Ponte Vedra’s Ethan Baur (4-1 loss to Hernandez) and Oakleaf’s David Parkes (#15 in 3A, 7-3 loss to Ross) reaching the blood round.
152 — Willis pinned his way through the draw, five falls in all, with the last one requiring just 1:10 to complete for the championship and eventual OW win. Bishop Kenny’s Joey Cusick (#4 in 1A) overcame a semifinal loss to place third with a major and 4-0 decision over Hernando’s Bronson Tafelski (#7 in 1A) for third place. Fleming’s Connor Rogers (#9 in 3A) shut out Buchholz’s William Green-Church (#20 in 3A), 10-0, for fifth.
160 — Fleming’s Tanner Hill (#6 in 3A) scored takedowns in each period, finding answers for each counter by Bishop Kenny’s Andrew Slade (#10 in 1A at 152), with the last takedown, with 1:13 left in the match, sufficient for a 7-5 decision. Hill had three takedowns and a decision prior to the final, with Slade the same numbers on his half. Clearwater CC’s Jake Mitchell (#7 in 1A), who lost, 8-4, to Hill in the semis, came back for third with a pin and decision, edging Buchholz’s Tracen Ransdell (#13 in 3A), 5-4, while Creekside’s Jalen Hines (#16 in 2A) majored Florida High’s Noah Perdue (#13 in 1A), 14-2, for fifth.
170 — As we saw in last year’s Rotary, Tampa Prep’s Colin Nation (#3 in 1A) had cradles for days, with a pair of them fueling a 12-0 major in the finals over Matanzas’ Quenteen Robinson (#3 in 2A). Nation had three pins and a tech prior to the finals, while Robinson had three pins. Hernando’s Fernando Valdez (#8 in 1A), who lost by fall (:32) to Robinson in the semis, came back for third with a pair of shutouts on the back, holding down First Coast’s Devante Wyatt (#19 in 3A), 2-0, in the placing match. Fleming Island’s Gavin Smith (#8 in 3A) pinned Fletcher’s Joel Rodriguez in 4:16 for fifth, while Florida High’s Chauncy Riggsby (loss by fall in 3:05 to Rodriguez) reached the blood round.
182 — Buchholz’s Armando Acosta (#5 in 3A) worked a turn in the first period, then picked up a second turn in the second period that became a pin in 2:54 in the finals over Wakulla’s Andrew Annand (#6 in 1A). Acosta had two techs and two pins prior to the finals, while Annand had three pins. Key West’s Jesse Garcia (#8 in 1A), who lost by fall to Annand (5:38) in the semis, won by fall twice on the back side, with a pin in 2:18 over Hernando’s Alex Espinal (#10 in 1A). Fleming’s Anthony Breeden (#14 in 3A) majored Niceville’s Sean Ripley, 9-1, for fifth, with First Baptist Christian’s James Griffin (loss by fall in 3:42 to Breeden) reaching the blood round.
195 — Exemplifying Fleming’s emphasis on controlled aggression, the Golden Eagles’ Chad Nix (#4 in 3A) capitalized on the one solid opportunity either wrestler gave the other, reversing 37 seconds into the second period, riding out 2A’s top-ranked Anthony Andou of Charlotte, then only allowing Andou an escape in the third for a 2-1 victory. Wakulla’s John Trevor Hinsey (#3 in 1A), who lost, 8-0, to Nix in the semis, came back for third with two decisions, including a 5-2 win in the third-place match over Buchholz’s Lawrence Smith-Jackson (#5 in 3A). Creekside’s Trey Chesser (#9 in 2A) won by a 5-2 decision for fifth.
220 — Charlotte’s Jose Valdez (#1 in 2A) stayed unbeaten for the season, scoring 10 takedows in the finals against Fleming’s Jeffrey Lascano (#5 in 3A) before working toward a fall in 5:43, Valdez’s fifth of the tournament. Lascano had two pins, a tech and decision prior to the finals. Wakulla’s Slade Watkins (#9 in 1A), who lost, 7-2, to Lascano in the semis, came back for third with a pair of decisions, the second of those a 6-2 win over Fletcher’s Ethan Hollenbach (#12 in 3A). Matanzas’ Cecil Bermudez pinned Mandarin’s Kevin Castro in 4:51 for fifth, while Bolles’ David Adewale (5-2 loss to Castro) and Buchholz’s Nevan Burney (loss by fall in 2:26 to Bermudez) reached the blood round.
285 — After getting his shoulder dinged as he went out of bounds during a tussle for positioning, Wakulla’s Darius Wilkins (#2 in 1A) seemed to get a second wind from the ding, roaring out to a takedown moments later, a takedown that turned into a fall in 3 minutes over St Augustine’s Darius Stanley (#3 in 2A) for the title. Wilkins had two pins and two decisions prior to the finals, while Stanley had two falls and a decision. Raines’ Jamon Goodwine (#3 in 1A), who lost, 3-2, to Wilkins, came back for third with a pin and a 2-1 decision over Fleming’s Raul Gonzalez (#14 in 3A), while Key West’s Hugo Tasayco (#10 in 1A) falled Hernando’s Sam Flemin in 4:49 for fifth. Mandarin’s Nicholas Wilbur (loss by fall in 2:17 to Fleming) reached the blood round.
Editor’s Note: Due to prior missing results for Suwannee, Robert E. Lee and Ed White, notes on top-eight wrestlers for those teams could not be noted in this recap.
Complete brackets can be found here.
Rankings as noted in this story are solely generated, and Matmen-endorsed, by Brant Parsons. Updated as of February 6.
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